Learn about marine iguanas in the Galapagos, tropical venomous seas snakes, the deadly salt water crocodile, and endangered sea turtles.
Asked to imagine a reptile and most people will think of lizards sunning in the desert, snakes slithering through the jungle, or geckos skittering in the corners of a human home. However, many reptiles spend their days gliding through tropical waters and migrating throughout the world’s oceans. A list of marine reptiles includes crocodiles, iguanas, snakes, and turtles.
Sea Turtles Come in Many Sizes
Sea turtles are one of the oldest species still alive today with fossils dating back 150 million years – meaning sea turtles roamed the Earth along with dinosaurs. Today there are seven recognized species of sea turtle and the Caribbean Conservation Corporation describes each species in detail. These marine reptiles come in a variety of sizes with the olive ridley weighing less than 100 pounds and the leatherback reaching 1,300 pounds. Sea turtles can travel thousands of miles in a lifetime migrating from their feeding grounds to their nesting beaches. Unfortunately, all seven species of this marine reptile are now endangered due to human poaching, destruction of habitat, and pollution.
Marine Iguanas of the Galapagos
The marine iguana (Amblyrhyncus cristatus) is endemic to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. As the National Geographic describes in its “Marine Iguana Profile” scientists believe that land dwelling iguanas from South America floated on logs millions of years ago to the Galapagos. These scary looking herbivores can grow up to five feet long and use their sharp teeth to scrape algae off of rocks. Cornell University describes in “Marine Iguanas” how these creatures can dive for an hour at a time although they usually remain submerged for 5 to 10 minutes. Unfortunately, human-introduced predators such as rats and dogs are threatening these fascinating creatures. The marine iguana is considered vulnerable to extinction.
Sea Snakes are a Highly Poisonous Marine Reptile
Sea snakes can be found throughout the tropical waters of the world from Africa to Southeast Asia to Panama. According to an August 2015 Science Daily article “Venomous Sea Snakes Play Heads or Tails with Predators” there are over 65 species in the ocean and all are highly poisonous. Sea snakes have one of the most toxic venoms known in all snake species. Active predators, the sea snake diet consists mostly of small fish found on coral reefs. Many species spend their entire lives at sea, although they tend to be found in shallow waters.
The Dangerous Saltwater Crocodile
Some say the saltwater crocodile is the animal most likely to eat a human, according to the National Geographic’s “Saltwater Crocodile Profile”. Living around Southeast Asia and the northern coastlines of Australia this marine reptile can reach 23 feet long and 2,200 pounds. It is the largest crocodilian in the world. Although they can swim far out to sea to feast on sharks, their prey mostly includes land-dwelling monkeys, boars, and wild buffalo. They are considered at a low risk for extinction however hunting and habitat loss has put pressure on their populations.
Protecting Marine Reptiles
Humans have put pressure on the populations of many marine reptile species. Hunting, habitat destruction, and pollution are pushing sea turtles and marine iguanas ever closer to extinction. Although the saltwater crocodile is considered safe at the moment the tide may turn if hunting and habitat loss continue. Although reptiles may not be as charismatic as pandas or tigers, they too deserve respect and have a right to exist in their homes.